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Gibson.com’s Top 50 Frontmen (and Frontwomen) of All Time – 40-31

08.24.2010

One of rock and roll’s smartest scribes once wrote, “It’s the singer not the song that makes the music move along.” How true. The frontman or frontwoman is the figurehead for the band, connecting the noise on stage with the crowds below. Whether it’s the result of vocal greatness, a cool look, insane dancing ability or just out-and-out charisma, the best frontmen enhance the music with their performances (while sometimes turning their bandmates into the “out of focus guys,” to quote Almost Famous). When you watch a great frontman, you simply can’t turn away.

In tribute to these legendary performers, Gibson.com is counting down the Top 50 Frontmen (and Frontwomen) of All Time – as voted on by the Gibson editorial and writing staff, some all-star musicians and most importantly, you, the readers. We’ve already unveiled #50-#41. Check back each day this week, as we place 10 more frontmen on their pedestals every morning (for #30-21, click here.) And make sure you log on to Gibson.com on Friday, when the Top 10 Frontmen (and Frontwomen) of All Time are revealed!

40. Neil Diamond

Neil Diamond was hardly the most charismatic performer in the ’60s, when he was an affable singer-songwriter type with some big hits (The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer”) to his name. Suddenly by 1972, for whatever mystical reason, Diamond transformed himself into a latter-day ’68 Elvis, clad in era-perfect denim and putting on one of the most dynamic and captivating concert runs (10 sold-out nights at L.A.’s Greek Theatre) in pop history. Diamond remains a performing heavyweight whose recent return to “cool” makes him one of the few ’60s giants worth catching live at any opportunity. – Andrew Vaughan

 

39. Elton John

Over the past four decades, Sir Elton John has moved a staggering 250 million records. An immensely likeable artist who’s never at a loss for an interesting outfit, John contributed panache and pomp to a ’70s landscape dominated by humorless rock bands. Behind a lively piano, he coaxed out songs of a generation – “Tiny Dancer,” “Your Song,” “Bennie and The Jets,” “Candle in the Wind,” and so on. He’s an icon, a one of a kind, a helluva guy. – Ellen Barnes

 

38. Joey Ramone (The Ramones)

Jeffry Ross Hyman, known to the world as Joey Ramone, was the least likely rock and roll frontman ever. The tall, gangly, pimply Queens native didn’t have much of a vocal range, but he did have a unique quality to his voice that betrayed the vulnerability and earnestness that was at the heart of the punk movement. Punk was born on teenage alienation, and Joey Ramone had that in spades. Listen to a live version of “I Wanna Live” and you will hear, behind the power chords, an empathizing voice of desperation. – Michael Wright

 

37. Rob Halford (Judas Priest)

There are many metal singers, but there is only one Metal God. Rob Halford took an unrivalled sonic scream and harnessed it to a leather-studded image to create one of the great personas in the history of rock. The dignity he maintained when he came out as a gay man, in the face of deep-seeded bigotry, is as rock and roll as it gets. He remains an uncompromising hero to metal fans worldwide, eternally screaming for vengeance. – Michael Wright

 

36. Morrissey (The Smiths)

Quite possibly the foremost pioneer of the indie music genre, Morrissey spent most of the ’80s drafting morose and beautiful songs as frontman for The Smiths. After the dynamic between Smiths members grew contentious, the Englishman went solo in 1987. In 2004, he released a comeback album, You are the Quarry, which sold better than any of his previous solo efforts, or any prior Smiths album. He is moody and he is controversial, but Morrissey arouses fierce loyalty amongst his legion of fans. – Ellen Barnes

 

35. Alice Cooper

Before Ozzy Osbourne ever turned a bat or dove’s head into a crunchy morsel, and before Gene Simmons ever spewed his first droplet of faux hemoglobin, there was Alice Cooper, sporting a live boa constrictor for a necktie and stunning wide-eyed concert-goers with mock executions, amputations and beheadings. In real life, the son of a preacher, Alice Cooper (née Vincent Furnier), created the template for arena shock rock. – Sean Patrick Dooley

 

34. Cab Calloway

Cab Calloway was one of the most high-energy and charismatic band leaders who ever lived. He dominated the 1930s and ’40s with huge hits such as “Minnie the Moocher,” “Reefer Man” and “St. James Infirmary Blues.” His music continued to remain contemporary as it is was used in films and constantly reprised by later artists. He was an exciting live performer, and my mother even danced in his show in the late ’30s, and saying he was nothing but the finest of gentlemen. So here’s to the “Hi-De-Ho Man!” – Arlen Roth

 

33. Michael Stipe (R.E.M.)

With the ascension of R.E.M. as one of America’s great bands, Michael Stipe went from an anti-frontman, trying to hide behind the microphone stand, to an outsized arena rocker, doing his “T. Rex moves” with blue paint streaked across his face. Whether he’s sitting still or shouting through a megaphone, Stipe has maintained an eccentric charisma that only can be matched by the power of his voice. His seductive, mumbled crooning and pleading wails serve as a sinkhole for R.E.M.’s American gothic fables. – Bryan Wawzenek

 

32. Liam Gallagher (Oasis)

The unholy marriage of John Lennon and John Lydon, Liam Gallagher strides the stage with an arrogance and swagger that is sadly missing in most of today’s music. When he sings, “Tonight I’m a rock ’n’ roll star,” not only do you know he believes it – but the listener is forced to come to the same inescapable conclusion, as well. Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore “Our Kid.” –Michael Wright

 

31. Little Richard

Save for Elvis, no artist changed the musical landscape in the ’50s more than Little Richard. With a truckload of charisma, explosive piano playing, frenetically shouted singing (and lots of pancake make-up, mascara and sequined duds), the self-proclaimed “Architect of Rock and Roll” was fundamental (just ask him) in laying the foundation for the musical genre. Combining funk and R&B with pounding locomotive beats, he transformed songs like “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally” into rock’s earliest thundering standards. – Sean Patrick Dooley

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